Last week the focus was very much on preparation for our trip to Upton Park to play against West Ham United in the Youth Cup.
Monday was spent looking at the importance of keeping possession and maintaining a solid shape when trying to win the ball back. As we had 15 for training we rotated three teams of five players to keep everyone fresh and the tempo was extrememly high. You can almost feel the buzz that a Youth Cup game brings and it certainly adds a spring to your step in training.
With the day over a childish prank that involved a lot of water esculated in to a full scale water fight in and around the gym and boot room areas, while all the lads saw the funny side of things a couple of out coaches were none too impressed at our antics and ordered a full scale tidy up of the affected areas.
We were told that what is acceptable at schoolboys soon changes when you want to be treated as adults and that it is important that we can heed advice and behave with the maturity that a lot of lads probably already feel they are gaining from being around the club environment.
Tuesday was a relatively light session and very typical of what you generally do the day before a match. The main priority with any final session pre-match is to ensure that you’re players remain fit and are in top condition for the game.
Unlike the game at Reading where we had stayed over the night before, the trip to West Ham commenced the morning of the game. A few of the lads were concerned with a variance to their routine but these things shouldn’t really matter as long as you are at the ground in good time and you have confidence in your own ability.
We boarded the coach and arrived in the East End of London around lunch-time and from there we checked in at the Hotel next to the ground and enjoyed some lunch before taking in a video analysis session of our opponents. From the footage I saw you could be forgiven for thinking, oh no as the Hammers really looked good, what struck me is that they play very attractive football and appeared to be capable of retaining possession for long periods. It’s fair to say a few of the lads were very impressed by what they saw.
FA Youth Cup: Newcastle United v West Ham United
As we kicked off I was just hopeful that we got a good start and didn’t concede. After a long journey down and waiting around that is the last thing you want to do especially when your hosts can keep the ball. To lose the first goal can be a nightmare under these circumstances because there is no onus on them to particularly do anythin other than keep possession and you can end up getting a little ragged if you try to force the issue.
They started at an unbelievable pace, passing and moving and really working us in all areas of the pitch but we stuck at it and against the run of play Jeff Henderson converted from a corner to put us ahead.
It was almost like the goal visibly shook their confidence because we then really started to get in to the game and on another day could’ve been three up by half-time.
Playing in the match it then felt like West Ham were always capable of playing decent stuff but that they were doing so without really causing the same threat as they had done in the opening minutes and I felt very comfortable in not expecting them to break us down.
We made it 2-0 shortly after the break and within minutes it was 3-0. By now they were gone and while they kept plugging away you could sense that their lads knew they couldn’t get anything out of the game.
Their efforts were rewarded with a penalty in the last minute but Jak Alnwick saved it to ensure we kept a clean sheet and cap a brilliant performance by the team.
We now look forward to facing Hull City or Crystal Palace in the next round and the possiblity that I could line up against my fellow blogger Dan Pringle if Palace make it through.
I’ve not met Dan personally but I have read his blogs from time to time which always provides an interesting view of things from the perspective of being at another Club. I know Palace are in a little bit of trouble at the moment but I hope everything turns out ok there for their players and fans.